Popular cities and towns for tourists:|
2. The Hague
If you believe the Lonely Planet, Amsterdam is the world's best hangout, a mix of old and new: radical squatter art installations hang off 17th-century eaves, bicycles and bars are everywhere. Amsterdam has many fascinating neighbourhoods to explore, from red light sleaze to bohemian chic to stately grandeur. The landscape is riddled with graceful bridges and eccentric churches, the air laden with carillon chimes. Most attractions are within the canal belt, so sightseeing is a breeze.
Den Haag is a beautiful city behind the dunes. Although it is known as 'the largest village of Europe', it the seat of the Crown (Queen Beatrix) and of the Dutch Government. Internationally recognized as the world's capital of international Justice. The Hague boasts many historical, Jugendstil and Art Nouveau buildings. Its beach resort Scheveningen is the most popular one of Holland, with trendy bars and beach clubs and great natural dunes for cycling.
Together with Nijmegen Maastricht is the oldest town of The Netherlands. Its history stretches back to 50 BC, when the Romans set up camp there. The town is close to Belgium and Germany and has a lively international feel, with lits of beer terraces. Fortification walls still partly surround the city, and you can explore a labyrinth of tunnels on the city's western outskirts.
The country's largest national park is home to the wonderful Kröller-Müller Museum with 278 works by Van Gogh, as well as smaller collections of Picasso and Mondriaan. Europe's largest sculpture garden can be found there too, with works by Rodin, Moore, Giacometti and many more.
The park itself covers 5500 hectares with forests and woods, shifting sands and heath moors. The natural feeling of silence is nowhere else to be found in The Netherlands. Red deer, wild boar and mouflon roam here. Hoge Veluwe is accessible by bus from Arnhem. White bicycles are available free of charge once you're inside the park.
In one of the most densely populated regions of the world, you will still find some open space near Leiden. Spectacular colours can be seen on the bulb fields which explode into colour between March and May. Even from the window of a train they're intoxicating, but a back-roads bicycle trip is the best way to enjoy the sights and smells. The Keukenhof, south of Haarlem, is the world's largest garden. It attracts a staggering 750,000 people during its eight-week season each year, but its beauty is something of an enigma. Nature's talents are combined with Dutch precision to create a garden where millions of tulips and daffodils bloom every year, perfectly in place and exactly on time.
The Dutch Wadden islands, situated in the very north of Holland (most of them in Flyslan, are the the place to be if you like unspoiled nature reserves, wildlife, beautiful beaches and charming villages. All the islands (Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog) are accessible by ferry, so you can do island hopping as well. Island hopping is also provided by specialised tour operators like Wadfietsen.nl, that take you on a comfortable Bike & Barge tour along the various islands.
The island of Texel is the largest Wadden Island, the easiest to reach from Amsterdam and it has more recreational facilities. In June, Texel is host to the world's largest catamaran race. Terschelling has a lot to offer with a good mix of polders, dune areas, tidal marshes and a long stretch of beaches. In June, the island accommodates the 'Oerol,' a large music and theater festival. If you're looking for tranquillity, visit Schiermonnikoog with your backpack. Only the island's residents are allowed the use of a car here.